Chauhan’s writing is resistance literature. It echoes the harrowing screams of a people long suppressed.
Fear and Other Stories is a reminder of the inherent dangers of the Dalit life, a life subjected to unimaginable violence and terror even in its most mundane moments. In this collection of short stories, veteran Gujarati writer Dalpat Chauhan narrates these lived experiences of exasperation and anger with startling vividity. His characters chronicle a deep history of resistance, interrogating historical, mythological and literary legends, foregrounding the perspectives of the disenfranchised.
Chauhan deftly wields his prose to counter dominant narratives, pointing out gaps and voicing the silences within. In The Payback, for a change, we see famished savarnas begging Dalit families for food that they scorn otherwise. The eponymous Fear follows the heroic but doomed resistance of Dalit youths fighting against savarna men with the ‘right’ to enter their homes and molest women inside. And the allegorical Cold Blood features a doctor who tries to leave behind his identity with his surname, only to be reminded of it when the savarnas accept his blood, but not water from his hands.
Hemang Ashwinkumar’s nimble translation introduces the English reader to Chauhan’s heart-wrenching stories while unmasking a rural Gujarat unrecognizable from its supposedly vibrant idylls. His introduction to the book not just contextualises Chauhan’s work, but is also a touching and thought-provoking commentary on the larger canvas of Dalit literature.
About the Author & Translator
Dalpat Chauhan is a veteran Gujarati Dalit writer waiting to be discovered by the non-Gujarati readership, academia and world literary cultures. Chauhan’s work unfolds at the intersection of social and literary movements that the Dalits of Gujarat waged in 1970s and 80s. While his activism led him to actively associate with the Gujarat Dalit Panthers (1974) and Dalit Sangharsh Sangh (1982), the radical little magazines like Kalo Suraj (The Black Sun), Akrosh (Outrage) and Sarvanam (Pronoun) that he edited served to pioneer the Dalit Literary Movement in Gujarati. Between 1982 and 1985 when Gujarat burned with anti-reservation riots, Chauhan brought out anthologies of Dalit Poetry, little magazines and investigative booklets that condemned atrocities on Dalits and questioned Government reports on them. Due to his untiring literary activism, Gujarati Dalit literature could chalk out a radical literary manifesto in 1987, sealing the boundaries of its definition and functions for future generations of Dalit writers.
Hemang Ashwinkumar is a bi-lingual poet, translator, editor and critic working in Gujarati and English. His poetry and translations have appeared in places like World Literature Today, Indian Literature, New Quest, Cerebration, Kitaab, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Marg, The Four Quarters Magazine, Indian Cultural Forum, The Beacon, Out of Print, Guftugu, Museindia, etc., read in literary festivals like HLF, SIWE, Piccolo Museo della Poesia, etc. and translated in Maithili, Italian and Greek. Hemang has rendered into English the literary works of a number of eminent Gujarati writers like Gulammohammed Sheikh, Himanshi Shelat, Nazir Mansuri, Mona Patrawala, Babu Suthar, Dalpat Chauhan, Kanji Patel, Piyush Thakkar, Manisha Joshi, Rajesh Pandya, Rajendra Patel, etc. He has also rendered world poets like Forough Farrokhzad, Mahmoud Darwish, Adam Zagajewsky, Abdellatif Laabi and others into Gujarati. From Indian languages, he has brought into Gujarati works of Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre, Nabarun Bhattacharya, Varvara Rao, Hemant Divate, and other contemporary Marathi poets. He has published around twenty-five academic research papers, guided five doctoral research students and completed three research projects funded by different funding agencies. He works at Central University of Gujarat.